As well as helping to manage sickness absence, HR professionals can help to improve employee wellness by introducing prevention programmes. This may be as simple as promoting flu jabs for at-risk employees in advance of the winter flu season. At a more strategic level, HR can take the lead on the development and implementation of programmes that support and strengthen employee resilience. Integral to this is an approach that recognises the importance of both physical and psychological wellbeing. A good place to begin is building and sustaining a positive, supportive workplace culture where employees are encouraged to lead healthy, active lives and, if they should become ill or injured, actively supported to secure suitable care. As a part of this, employees should be encouraged to take time off when necessary for check-ups and medical appointments.
While employers may be nervous to advise employees on lifestyle choices such as diet and exercise, these can significantly affect physical and psychological health and, in turn, performance and productivity. Even simple measures such as encouraging a healthy, balanced diet (which employers can facilitate by ensuring their canteens, vending machines and lunch delivery services offer healthy choices) and regular exercise (which they can facilitate through gym discounts and by promoting physical activity such as walking groups during lunch-time breaks and company sports teams) can make a big difference.
By dealing with sickness absence quickly, sensitively and professionally, HR professionals can go a long way towards minimising the disruption it can cause. Prevention, early intervention and allowing ill or injured employees sufficient time to recover are all key to positive attendance management and employers that get this right will be rewarded by a workforce that performs to the best of its ability.